Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma: Complete Game Preview
For the first time since 1999 the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame will go to battle with the Oklahoma Sooners. Sooner fans haven't forgotten about the history between the two schools, either.
On November 16, 1957, Notre Dame defeated Oklahoma, 7-0, to end the Sooners' NCAA record 47-game winning streak.
Nearly 55 years later, these two historic programs will meet with national championship implications on the line. Both Notre Dame (No. 5) and Oklahoma (No. 8) enter the contest ranked in the top ten of the most recent BCS standings.
How do the Sooners and Fighting Irish match up in this game?
For that answer and more, let's get started with this week's preview.
Who: Notre Dame at Oklahoma
When: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. (EDT)
Where: Norman, Okla.
Stadium: Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
Radio: IMG Notre Dame Radio Network
Internet Stream: N/A
Depth Chart for Notre Dame
QB—Everett Golson, Andrew Hendrix OR Tommy Rees
RB—Theo Riddick OR George Atkinson III OR Cierre Wood, Cam McDaniel
WR—TJ Jones, DaVaris Daniels
WR—Robby Toma, Davonte' Neal
WR—John Goodman, Daniel Smith
TE—Tyler Eifert, Ben Koyack
LT—Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley
RT—Christian Lombard, Tate Nichols
C—Braxston Cave, Mike Golic, Jr.
LG—Chris Watt, Conor Hanratty
RG—Mike Golic, Jr., Nick Martin
DE—Kapron Lewis-Moore, Sheldon Day
DE—Stephon Tuitt, Tony Springmann
NG—Louis Nix III, Kona Schwenke
LB—Prince Shembo, Ishaq Williams
LB—Dan Fox, Carlo Calabrese
LB—Manti Te'o, Jarrett Grace
LB—Danny Spond, Ben Councell
CB—Bennett Jackson, Jalen Brown
CB—KeiVarae Russell, Josh Atkinson
FS—Zeke Motta, Nicky Baratti
SS—Matthias Farley, Chis Salvi
Depth Chart for Oklahoma
QB—Landry Jones, Blake Bell
FB—Trey Millard, Aaron Ripkowski
RB—Damien Williams, Dominique Whaley OR Brennan Clay
WR—Justin Brown, Durron Neal
WR—Kenny Stills, Trey Metoyer
TE—Geneo Grissom OR Taylor McNamara OR Brannon Green
LT—Lane Johnson, Tyrus Thompson
LG—Adam Shead, Austin Woods
C—Gabe Ikard, Ty Darlington
RG—Bronson Irwin, Austin Woods
RT—Daryl Williams, Derek Farniok
DE—Chuka Ndulue, R.J. Washington
DT—Casey Walker, Jordan Phillips
DT—Jamarkus McFarland, David King
DE—David King, Mike Onuoha
LB—Corey Nelson, Aaron Franklin OR Joseph Ibiloye
LB—Tom Wort, Frank Shannon OR Jaydan Bird
Nickel—Gabe Lynn, Julian Wilson
CB—Aaron Colvin, Gary Simon
CB—Demontre Hurst, Lamar Harris
SS—Javon Harris, Gabe Lynn
FS—Tony Jefferson, Jesse Paulsen
What Happened to the Fighting Irish Last Week
Notre Dame kept its BCS, as well as national championship, hopes alive with a thrilling 17-14 victory over the visiting BYU Cougars at Notre Dame Stadium last Saturday.
Tommy Rees relieved the concussed Everett Golson at starting quarterback for the Irish, completing just seven of his 16 pass attempts for 117 yards and one touchdown.
Yet it was the Irish rushing attack that came to Notre Dame's rescue, as Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick combined for 257 of the team's 270 rushing yards. Those 270 rushing yards were the most allowed by a BYU defense that entered the contest ranked third nationally in rushing defense, having allowed an average of 67.86 yards-per-game.
The Irish defense was equally as impressive, limiting the Cougars to just 66 rushing yards. Quarterback Riley Nelson, though he completed nearly 64 percent of his passes, was held to 177 passing yards. Nelson also threw interceptions, allowing Notre Dame to win the turnover battle, 2-1.
For a full recap of Notre Dame's victory over BYU, click here.
What Happened to the Sooners Last Week
In their sixth game of the season, the Oklahoma Sooners put a pounding on Kansas and former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis, beating the Jayhawks, 52-7.
The game was over at the 10:04 mark of the second quarter, when Sooners' wide receiver Justin Brown returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown to put his team ahead, 24-0. By halftime, the Sooners had secured a 38-0 lead.
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones was the catalyst of the explosive first half, and finished the game having completed 20 of his 29 pass attempts for 300 yards and three touchdowns.
Yet the most perplexing statistic of the game was time of possession. Weis' Jayhawks held the ball for 40:11, while the Sooners only ate up 19:49 of the clock.
For a full recap of Oklahoma's monstrous win over Kansas, click here.
What It Means to Both Teams
It has been 10 years since Notre Dame was still in the hunt for the BCS National Championship this late in the season, making the Irish a true feel-good story of the 2012 season.
However, a truly intimidating roadblock lies ahead, as the Oklahoma Sooners have BCS aspirations of their own, despite having lost to No. 3 Kansas State last month.
Regardless of the outcome, the matchup of fifth-ranked Notre Dame and eighth-ranked Oklahoma has national championship implications written all over it. Should the Irish lose to Bob Stoops' club, Brian Kelly and Co. would likely be booted out of the running for the coveted crystal ball.
The Sooners, who jumped to eighth in the BCS rankings on Sunday, still remain in contention for a berth a BCS game, with the Fiesta Bowl being the most likely landing spot for the Sooners should Kansas State finish the season undefeated.
A win over the Irish keeps Oklahoma's BCS dreams intact, but a loss will put a prompt end to those dreams.
Key Player for Notre Dame
Key Player: Secondary
Rather than select an individual player for this distinction, I've deemed Notre Dame's secondary as this week's most important "player."
Entering the season, this was a unit thought by many to be a weak leak in an otherwise strong defense. That prognostication has proven false, as the Irish secondary currently finds itself ranked 14th nationally in passing defense.
Time and again, the unit has silenced the doubters, shutting down the potent passing attacks of Purdue and Miami.
Oklahoma presents yet another challenge for a young secondary that has showed a maturity beyond its years. Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones is, far and away, the best passing quarterback the Irish have seen all season. He is surrounded by a slew of speedy receivers, including Penn State transfer Justin Brown.
Key Player for Oklahoma
Key Player: Landry Jones, QB
Oklahoma's dynamic offense is predicated around the abilities of quarterback Landry Jones. The Artesia, N.M. product leads the way for an offense that currently ranks 17th nationally in total offense.
The Sooners will go as far as Jones carries them, which at times is a rather nerve-wracking circumstance. Since a 2010 season in which Jones threw for 38 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions, the senior has seemingly slowly regressed since losing wide receiver Ryan Broyles to the NFL.
While facing a sound Notre Dame defense that is painfully stingy against both the run and pass, Jones will be counted upon to effectively distribute the ball to the playmakers around him.
Notre Dame Will Win If...
Notre Dame will win if its defense prevents big plays down the field.
Oklahoma co-offensive coordinators Jay Norvell and Josh Heupel like to stretch the field vertically once they have established the running game.
Through seven games, the Irish defense hasn't seen as complete of an offense as Oklahoma's making the matchup, perhaps, the most challenging of the season thus far.
The Irish secondary, though it has consistently exceeded expectations, will need to play mistake-free football for Notre Dame to walk out of Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium with a victory in hand.
Offensively, Notre Dame needs quarterback Everett Golson to grow up quickly, particularly after sitting out during last week's 17-14 win over BYU because of a concussion suffered two weeks ago against Stanford. As has been common for Notre Dame's opponents, the Sooners are likely to load the box in an effort to force Golson to beat them with his arm.
That's no small task, as the Sooners rank ninth nationally in passing defense and sixth nationally in passing efficiency defense.
Oklahoma Will Win If...
Oklahoma will win if it can force Notre Dame to become a one-dimensional team on offense and if it wins the turnover margin.
The blueprint for beating Notre Dame is a rather simple one. Because the Irish have a starting quarterback who has struggled to move the ball through the air, opposing defenses have been increasingly confident in selling out against the run and leaving their cornerbacks in one-on-one matchups.
Everett Golson has had difficulties taking advantage of those opportunities, causing the Irish offense to become stagnant at times.
On the other side of the ball, quarterback Landry Jones will need to pick apart the Irish defense through the air, which has been seemingly impenetrable this season. If he can consistently connect with his receivers for long gains down the field, the Sooners will have no trouble tacking a 'W' on the scoreboard.
As the old saying goes, "defense wins championships and offense wins games."
Notre Dame's defense has played championship caliber football through seven games this season, and has, more often than not, bailed the offense out en route to blood pressure increasing victories.
The defense can't beat Oklahoma on its own, so the offense will have to do its part.
Unfortunately for Notre Dame fans, the offense will fail to put enough points on the board to win. A hostile home crowd will also play in Oklahoma's favor, giving the Sooners a win that will keep their BCS hopes afloat.
My Prediction: Oklahoma 24, Notre Dame 14
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